Flash photography rookie mistakes with the family

I don’t play golf but I always hear that one should never ever buy new clubs before an important tournament. So, here is my “golf” story for you.

This last weekend I attended my first Christmas family reunion of the season at my Mom’s place. I know that it is a “bit” early, just don’t ask 🙂 She wanted me to take some pics of the kids, the ‘bros’ and the step-sisters. So off I went to Photo Service here in Montréal to buy a few gears for a portable studio: a reflective umbrella, a stand for it and a clamp to hold all the pieces and the flash together. Basic stuff, not too expensive. I was very eager to play with my new “toys” :-).

We had rented this party room at my Mom’s place, so I went there ahead of the gang to set up my lighting gears and to select a proper background. I was fairly confident that I had done it right and that I would be shooting under a “controlled” environment.

Well, it did not turn out that way.

My Mom wanted me to shoot the kids first. Not a bad idea, considering how excited they all were. But I was to shoot not in my (semi) thoroughly prepared environment. No, off on the couch they were to be seated. I was not prepared for it nor was my background ready. Although I moved all the distracting background items (and people!) it remains that too many things were still distracting.

The second mistake I did (if the background was my first), was when I moved my flash-umbrella stand. Not so much where, but way too high for little guys on a low couch (as opposed to its intended position, raised, for adults standing up). Most pics have way too much shadow beneath the eyes and the noses. Also, my light source was way too much to the side causing one side to bright while the other in the shadow.

I managed to change things a bit and was able to get a few good shots. But they will require a lot of post processing to get those shadows out!

Noel 2010 Mills Novembre 2010- 33

The shots of adults were better. Not perfect. Far from it. But better. I particularly like the ones were I am perched on a chair. It gives a nice angle. But best, it ensures that your subjects are actually watching you, rather than being distracted by the other activities in the room! The shots that I did not like were where the group is not tight enough (too spread apart) nor when two people hug each other (too crushed).Your subjects have to be close, but not so much that they are squished.

Noel 2010 Mills Novembre 2010- 80

One last thing: I should have been more assertive and directive with the subjects. Sure they are family, but when I am behind the Nikon, they are subjects and need to be directed. Not that photographers need to play the bad guy, but composition is not a group decision thing. It is my call.

All in all a great learning experience for me and some great fun too.

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3 Responses to Flash photography rookie mistakes with the family

  1. Pingback: iPad Photoshoot by Jesse Rosten « Max's Photo Blog

  2. Pingback: Christmas Portraits « Max's Photo Blog

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